The Complete A to Z Guide to Personal Branding
Which brand would you recommend even without thinking twice about it?
Amazon? Facebook? McDonald’s?
As you think about such brands, what do you think of the brand “You?”
You’re also a brand, whether you know it or not.
In the eyes of the public, some brands perform well while others perform poorly. How do you as a brand perform?
It’s important to consider how people view you. Of course not to the extent that you try pleasing everyone. But for your overall success in life, you need to do some personal branding.
Understanding that you are a brand helps you live a more purposeful life. And to help you do this, we have developed a guide which you can follow.
Check it out and use it to build your own brand. You are never too late to get started.
A – Audience
Personal branding is a way of marketing yourself. And if you’re marketing yourself, then there has to be an audience.
Your audience determines a lot. In fact, everything.
If you do or say things which they can’t relate to, you lose your influence and impact. As such, knowing your audience is at the center of your branding efforts.
Choosing your audience is key and you cannot afford to make the wrong choice. Of course you can make corrections but if you can avoid such a situation, the better.
There are two potentially-confusing words you need to understand when it comes to your audience. These are target market and target audience. Both are related but there are differences.
Your target market is the general group or class you seek to reach. This could be the industry you’re operating in or about to enter. Your target audience on the other hand is the specific group of people within your target market that you have a message for.
The target audience is therefore the niche within your industry. Before doing anything else, identify your target market and audience then get rolling.
B – Balance
Just because you’re building your personal brand doesn’t mean that it’s all there is to your life. You need to take care of other things too.
There is a term which has recently gained a lot of popularity. It’s the term “work-life balance”.
In pursuit of more fulfillment and satisfaction in life, many have discovered that careers and business are not everything.
People have families to raise, relatives to interact with and they also need spare time to just unwind. The earlier you realize this and work towards it, the sooner you enjoy the benefits.
Whichever way you look at it, personal branding has more to do with your professional life than your private life—the word personal notwithstanding. Whether you’re branding for business or employment opportunities, you should make time for other things too.
Here are some statistics about work-life balance to get you thinking:
- 40% of people use their computers after 10 PM
- 26% of work is done outside of normal working hours
- Of the 26% of our work done outside of working hours, 71% happens mostly after work, while 29% happens on weekends.
C – Content
There are several things which make up your personal brand. These are what this article is all about. However, it goes without saying that the best way to know someone is through what they say.
Yes, actions speak louder than words, but words reveal what is inside someone’s mind or heart. For that reason, what you speak or share is what will largely determine how successful you are in your efforts to paint a certain image of yourself.
For the best results, the content you share, whatever form it takes, must be valuable. It must help others make better choices and guide them towards becoming better versions of themselves. If you’re targeting businesses, then your content should help them grow.
Here are some quick tips to help you with content creation:
- Stick to your niche (target audience) – do not be discouraged by the small size of your audience. It is never the size that matters. What matters is the trust you build with them and how much value they believe you add to their lives.
Think of the high-end businesses and clubs which require expensive memberships. How many customers do they have compared to those serving as many customers as possible? Which of them makes most money?
As long as you’re serving the purpose and are helping meet the needs of your audience, they will pay as necessary. All the same, do not start by chasing after the money. Give value and the money will just follow.
- Know what’s trending – if you don’t know what’s going on around you, you may find it difficult being relevant. There are issues you may tackle because they are always a challenge but often, other seasonal challenges arise.
When these come up, people will expect to get advice and solutions from you. If all you give them is advice about the usual things, then you can easily lose touch with them. They will stop seeing you as helpful and will avail themselves to someone else who can offer them help.
- Keep tabs on the competition – you will always have competition regardless of how small your audience is. If you don’t yet have any competition, be on the lookout and solidify your ground since the situation may not forever remain the same.
Once you know who is competing against you, try to understand what they offer. If you can get your hands on it and use or test it, the better. Gauge yourself against them and work on getting better.
Although becoming number two is not the end of your brand, being and staying number one is better.
- Be original – and while keeping tabs on your competition, don’t fall into the trap of copying their content. Don’t even copy their content strategy. If you think that their strategy is superior to yours, acknowledge it and work towards improving yours.
You can do this by doing your own research. There are ways of doing customer research. Do it and develop your own strategy. If after your research you come up with a strategy similar to theirs, no problem. Just make sure you don’t rely on their ideas to generate content.
- Be practical – to be helpful and valuable, you will have to offer advice. But if your advice is difficult to implement, you may not be labeled as helpful. Eventually, in the eyes of your followers, you’ll not be valuable.
Ensure that whatever you tell people to do, it’s pretty easy to do. Make your tips simple and straightforward. Break them down into bite-size pieces to make it easy to remember.
D – Design
You’re developing a brand. Brands are made and design is part of the making process.
There are several aspects of your brand. You have the logo, your slogan, colors etc. All these should be carefully designed. Since there are many brands out there, you have to make sure that you stand out from the crowd.
With design, it’s more than the visual aspects of your brand. You can also have design in your content. For example, you can have design in the flow of your words such that there is a style in the way you communicate your message.
On your website and blog, you can have design on the layout, colors used as well as the fonts. How you play around with the images can also contribute to your overall message.
All these are aspects of design which you can work on to establish your personal brand.
E – Effort
Generations are distinguished by their birth years. But there’s one generation which many today are choosing to become a part of. In some ways, they’re choosing quite unknowingly.
This unique generation is known as the microwave generation.
Have you heard about it?
The members of this generation believe that things can happen without much effort. They expect that minimum effort can yield maximum results. Although this has worked in some cases, it’s more often the exception than the norm.
Yes, you can and should work smart; not necessarily hard. But as any successful person will tell you, there is some effort involved. And in many cases, the effort is not little.
As you embark on this journey, do not expect things to fall into place by themselves. You will have to put in the effort. This is especially true if you want to see the results fairly quickly.
F – Focus
And as you work towards your goals, you need to keep in mind that your resources are non-renewable.
And one of the most non-renewable resources you have is time. You only have 24 hours in a day.
If you make good use of them, they may seem a lot. But if you waste them, they’ll seem too little.
“Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One man gets only a week’s value out of a year while another man gets a full year’s value out of a week.” – Charles Richards
Work hard, but also work smart. Focus your energy on the right stuff. Use your money wisely and manage your time well.
Whether you use To-Do lists or not, prioritize the tasks at hand. Make sure you work on the things which add value to your brand before doing other things. That way, come bed time, you can sleep at peace knowing that you spent your day well.
G – Goals
You must have goals which you want to achieve. Do not say that you want to have a successful brand. You need to define the word “successful” otherwise you’ll never attain it.
How else will you know that you’ve become successful?
Use the time-tested and trusted approach of setting SMART goals.
This will keep you on course and help you monitor your progress.
H – Humor
Your brand is likely the professional aspect of your life. You may then be tempted to be all serious and business-oriented. That can make you lose touch with those you seek to connect with.
There’s always the light side of life and people connect very well on that side. This is why people need breaks from work every day and several weeks at once every year.
Being humorous doesn’t necessarily mean being able to tell rib-cracking jokes. Just loosen up and notice the non-serious things in life.
As long as you are a human being, you have some sense of humor within you. Don’t be afraid of sharing jokes or light moments in your life.
These are what make people find you to be relatable.
I – Images
What’s your preferred mode of communication? One-on-one talking, texting, writing emails or calling?
You may have your preferences but just remember that you are connecting with others.
For that reason, you need to be considerate of their own preferences. You won’t be able to make them connect with your purely on your terms.
One of the most popular ways of communicating today is by using images. Before images became mainstream, text ruled everywhere. From newspapers to newsletters. Even blogs were full of text.
Although you cannot completely do away with text, you need to embrace the changes which have taken place in the world of communication.
Look for ways of including images in your communication strategy and you’ll reap better results.
J – Joining
You’re a social being and you cannot live in isolation—especially now that you’re building a personal brand. Brands are available to the public. Even if it’s a small group, as long as it has other people other than you, it’s public.
Having chosen your target audience, you need to join the groups and communities which have similar interests to yours.
These are the places where your audience’s interests are discussed, questions are asked and answers given. You have to be in these groups and participate in the discussions.
And because you’re catering to the needs of a specific group of people, the topics of interest may not be available in the mainstream media. As such, without being a part of these communities, you’ll not know what’s going on in your area of interest.
As you create and share content, you run the risk of being out of sync with the real and urgent needs of the people you want to connect with.
So, join relevant communities and engage with the members there. That will also increase your popularity, give you more connections, and in due time, increase your net worth.
K – Keywords
Keywords are a big subject, especially in the world of Search Engine Optimization. These are words which help search engines determine which web page provides the best answers to an internet user’s questions.
Generally speaking, keywords and their popularity are determined by the popularity of questions asked. If you then want to reach certain people, you will do well to know the keywords to include in your content.
If you use them well, then search engines will give your content more credit by raising it to the top of the search results. The links you see on the first page of your search results are those leading to the content which the search engine believes has the best answers for your question.
To know which keywords to include in your content, use a keyword analyzers like Keyword Explorer.
Once you identify your keywords, you need to craft your message around them. Here is a guide on how to use keywords.
L – Leadership
The word leadership gets tossed around a lot. Politicians are called leaders. The head of a team is called a leader. The team captain is called a leader. Just who is a leader? And are you one?
Perhaps a good way of defining a leader is by first of all differentiating between leadership and management.
Whereas a manager basically takes care of things and sees to it that everything runs smoothly, a leader is different.
A leader’s primary motivation is not the growth of the company but of the people working in the company. He therefore doesn’t just want to see things run smoothly but the people running them being empowered to run things smoothly.
You get the difference?
For your personal brand to become a success, you must either be a leader or develop leadership skills. First start by developing the mindset of a leader before going for the skills.
That way, it will naturally flow from within.
Remember you want to help others become better. That means you’ll be influencing them.
This is what leadership is all about. Also understand that in order for you to help build others up, you must first of all be built up.
Develop yourself. Capitalize on your strengths and work to ensure your weaknesses don’t hinder you. Once you experience the personal development, you’ll be able to help develop others.
M – Media
Media is a platform through which communication is made. There are several types of media. Let’s look at print media, broadcast media and the internet.
Print media consists of newspapers and magazines. This can also have brochures, pamphlets, catalogs etc. Anything that is printed on paper falls into this category.
Broadcast media includes TV and Radio. Whether these are satellite, cable or any other types, the content in these are broadcast. These are the ones which facilitate the sharing of information from one person to many.
Looking at how this worked in the past before advancements in technology will help understand it better. In many countries, there used to be one national broadcaster controlled by the government. The primary role of that broadcaster was to communicate messages from the government to the public.
Today, the biggest and most popular media type is the internet. This is quite different from broadcast despite it providing communication to the global audience.
With the internet, anyone can broadcast his message and can receive communication from any other broadcaster. Depending on where you stand, this can be either good or bad.
Among the three media types, your success in personal branding will mostly depend on utilizing the internet well.
Being a communication platform, you’ll need to find out which media type is used by your target and be there.
Here is a quick guide for you. Going by age sets, baby boomers are primarily reached by print and broadcast media.
Generation X are mainly on both TV and internet while millennials (Gen Y) are mostly on the internet with a little TV. Print media is not common among them.
The newest generation, Gen Z have little appreciation of print and broadcast media. They are primarily on the internet and their favorite places are Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube.
Know where you need to be and be there. Otherwise you’ll not be able to connect with your audience.
N – Networking
Your efforts need to go beyond the use of media platforms which are mostly indirect means of communication. You also need to have some physical interactions.
Once you gain a considerable following, organize a networking event.
In the mean time, attend those organized by others. This is a way of knowing the people you connect with and what’s trending in your market.
From your networking circles, you can also get a boost in your personal branding efforts.
There are those who have established themselves and can definitely give you some advice. Some can even offer other forms of support.
The good thing about successful people is that they are usually helpful in nature.
They desire to see others succeed too. So make use of those opportunities and be on your way to success.
O – Opportunity
Thinking like an entrepreneur, you need to be on the lookout for opportunities.
Opportunities to grow. Opportunities to learn. Opportunities to help others as well as opportunities for any other thing you deem necessary.
All the same, don’t just wait for opportunities to show up. You can also create opportunities.
This is a work of creativity and originality which comes from what you have on the inside.
It’s what you have within you that looks for a way of making a difference. Given a particular situation, you then work around obstacles and challenges till you get where you want.
As much as this flows from within, it’s also a trait you can develop. Many entrepreneurs have it as a natural trait while others develop it. They understand that they need it to thrive.
This is what gives birth to the mindset that challenges are nothing but opportunities. Once those challenges are dealt with, improving the product or service becomes the next opportunity.
So, look for ways of sharing what you have. Develop creativity and get through obstacles to be able to take your brand where no-one else has managed to take theirs.
P – Personality
What is it that makes you who you are? What is it that defines your uniqueness?
Personalities are diverse and there are many ways of discovering your personality. Your personality is how you express yourself. In speech, actions, responses to other people’s actions etc.
One thing that can be confused with personality is character. Whereas personality is about you on the outside, your character is about the inside.
However, in most cases, personalities are true expressions of the person. And since people relate with those of like traits, interests, values, goals etc, you should not be afraid of expressing your personality.
Let it be known. It’s what makes you unique. Do not allow any thought or word by anyone to stifle your expressions. Those small things which you do are what will attract people to you.
Furthermore, your freedom in expressing yourself will be loved by many. Not many people are comfortable and confident enough to freely express themselves. So when they meet someone who is, they get attracted to them.
They desire to become like them thus following their advice expecting some change.
Q – Questions
You may think that because you’re building your personal brand and have some knowledge, that you should be the one always talking. Sure, you’ll do a lot of talking, but not always.
You’re going to be part of a community and in a community, people talk. It’s never just one person talking while the others listen.
Make it a part of your content strategy to always ask questions.
Ask your followers questions. Get to know what challenges they are facing and give them advice or answers. Where possible, walk with them through the solutions and help them implement the advice.
In your blog, you can ask your readers what subjects they would like you to talk about. Plan for them and tackle those issues. You can even have a specific day of the week or month set aside for answering questions.
Questions can also help expand your knowledge base. To fully address some issues, you will need to do some research. In the process, you will learn a lot of new things which will increase your expertise.
Questions also allow you to better understand the underlying issues people face. When someone asks you a question, you realize that your messages have not been able to help them.
This is pretty normal since people are facing different challenges. But the opportunity to know what is troubling someone, gives you the chance to really help by giving a custom answer.
R – Reputation
You get to know a brand from what people say about it. The more positive the reports about a brand, the stronger it becomes and more people love it. The opposite is also true.
People even check online reviews before deciding to do business or buy something from a certain business. That means that what people say about you matters.
This does not mean that you should be overly concerned and start trying to please people so they talk well of you. That will make you lose your confidence and without confidence your brand cannot stand.
You just need to do what you’re doing but taking care of your reputation, especially online.
There are at least two basic ways of building your reputation:
- Building trust – you can build trust through many ways but chief among them is providing valuable content (ref: letter “C” above). This content must give accurate facts which should be backed by evidence. Let it be known that you speak the truth.
- Countering negative press – no matter how helpful and valuable your content is, you will never be loved by everyone. There will always be someone somewhere who won’t like what you’re doing. You will need to wisely deal with such people and their words.
Since they will often speak negatively online, you need to know when and where they do it. This enables you to counter them. While doing this, make sure you’re professional and don’t get involved in arguments. The section about “Tools” (letter “T”) has information about this.
S – Social Media
We talked about some types of media and the internet was one of them. Social media rides on the internet and it consists of different platforms.
There are many social media platforms. Among the most popular are Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube. To know which one you should participate in, you need to know which one is being used by your audience (ref: letter “A” above).
In many cases, your audience will be on two or three platforms. Of the three, they might however spend most of their social media time on one. The best thing to do is to be present on all three.
Once your content is ready for posting, fine tune the language, style and format to suit the platform you’re posting in. This makes your content available on all the platforms thereby increasing your chances of netting more followers.
T – Tools
In this modern age of technology, things move fast and if you can’t keep up, you can easily get forgotten. Someone else might come from behind and overtake you simply because they are better equipped than you are.
So what better way of helping you than giving you some real tips which can make your work easier?
There are many tools you can use to build and manage your personal brand with ease. We can all do with some help, right?
Let’s look at four basic things you need to do and advice you on how to handle them.
1. Building your audience – after you have identified your audience, you need to build it. Building your audience is making them develop an interest in you. Having mentioned social media, here is one of the platforms you can use to build your audience.
Quora is a Q&A blog. It’s not as flashy as others but it does serve the purpose. People visit Quora to ask questions and they get answers. There are many experts on this blog and they give answers with varying degree of details.
To show yourself knowledgeable and get people following you, create a great Quora profile and start searching within your target market. Get questions you can answer and do a good job at it.
2. Know your audience – it’s good to have a big audience but if you don’t know or understand them, you can easily lose them. In some cases, you may not lose them but won’t get engagement from them. Without engagement, your brand cannot be strong.
There is a tool called Followerwonk which can come in handy. It digs through your Twitter followers’ profiles to give you insight about them. This helps you know what to talk about so as to attract their attention and build trust.
3. Schedule your posts – as you start posting online, one thing you must have is consistency. You cannot post for three consecutive days then skip the following two days, post on the next only to go quiet for a week.
Although you don’t have to post on a daily basis, decide on a frequency then maintain it.
4. Counter negative press – we talked about your online reputation and here is how you can keep tabs on it. You’ll need to do what is called social listening. This is the act of “listening” to mentions of your name or brand name anywhere on the internet and responding if necessary.
One of the best social listening tools is Hootsuite. It helps in monitoring what is said about you then you can respond to keep your brand on the right side of reviews.
U – Unique Selling Proposition
Every brand has a message and the message is of what it offers. As a brand, what are you offering?
You need to be able to differentiate yourself from the crowd. The solution you offer needs to stand out.
This is called your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). It’s also referred to as Unique Selling Point (USP) or Unique Value Proposition (UVP).
Your USP should be something no other product can do. Maybe it works better than others. Maybe it works just as well as others but faster. Maybe others need sustained use while yours is only for one-time use.
Whatever makes you stand out, that is what you should make the focus of your message. Let everyone know the advantage you have and that will help them decide to check you out.
V – Video
Remember we said images perform better than text alone? Images work very well. However, videos are quickly outpacing images in the fight for popularity.
Consider the below statistics on video:
- YouTube is the second most popular website after Google.
- YouTube users view more than 1 billion hours of video each day.
- Cisco projects that by 2022, online videos will make up more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic.
You can never go wrong in using video. In fact, not using them can make things go wrong.
And to be more future-proof, consider including AI in your video strategy.
W – Website (and blog)
There is no way you’ll have an online presence simply through social media platforms. You need a website and a blog. A website is more like your office location while your blog is where you share insights and advice from.
Blogs can be very dynamic and can include lots of features. Depending on your industry and target audience, you’ll have to use an appropriate layout, colors, fonts, widgets etc. Remember to include images and videos.
You can also have webinars once you have an audience. Podcasts are also a good way of passing your message. Once you know how your audience prefers to be communicated to, you’ll be able to adapt accordingly.
Here are some tips for a great blog layout.
X – eXpand
Getting your personal brand set up is the first step. But is that all you want? To just get started?
If you do the things outlined here, you will definitely not stagnate. You will grow. However, you can more growth if you plan and work towards it.
You can think of expansion in either of two ways. You can increase the number of people you reach or increase the level of influence you have on those already reached.
Either way, you cannot be passive about it.
Come up with a growth plan and actively work towards experiencing that growth.
Y – You
As the name implies—personal branding—this whole process is all about you. Everything revolves around you.
Don’t get this wrong. Your target audience is important and you should seek to ease their pain. However, you are the one giving the solutions. The solutions must have a touch of you. Everything about your brand must show that it is you.
So you need to be comfortable with who you are. Understand your uniqueness and strengths. Know the value of what you have to offer and keep your head high.
Be yourself and do not be afraid of expressing yourself. Even if everyone is saying the same thing but you think otherwise, be open about it. It is this difference that will make you stand out. Just remember to be respectful of others’ opinions.
Even when checking out the competition, do not try to be like them. The more true you are to yourself, the easier you will flow as you provide the solutions you have.
Z – Zeal
Being the last letter in the alphabet, this one stands for zeal. If you have no zeal, you’ll likely abandon the project very soon.
As mentioned in the section about effort, you have to put in the work. Consider it a valuable project which must succeed. You have to believe in it and inject some passion.
If you think about the satisfaction you’ll get out of this, you’ll surely be able to work on it.
Be enthusiastic about your brand.
Dedicate time and other resources to this. If you really believe in yourself and what you have to offer, then the project of developing a personal brand will succeed.
Personal branding is an exercise everyone should engage in. You don’t have to be a career salesman, be on a job hunt for a top management position or have a business you’re running. Many corporates set up ambassador programs to work with you to reach more customers.
People are always seeking to know the kind of people they are relating with. Even on Facebook, people are going through profiles before accepting friend requests.
Instead of just posting messages and letting your online presence manage itself, why don’t you become strategic about it? Why not define an end result then work towards it?
The ultimate satisfaction in life comes from achieving goals. Make developing your personal brand one of your goals and enjoy the benefits of achieving it.
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